Barry is one of our most faithful and joyful volunteers. When you first see him in the morning, his whole face lights up, he sticks out his arms for a hug, and he says, “Hey buddy!” I wish you could hear him say it. Text can’t capture the enduring quality of his greeting. If you ask any of our staff, they’ll tell you the same thing, “Barry constantly teaches us about life.” Here are some of the main lessons he’s taught me:
Joy is contagious—Barry loves life! He finds so much joy in the things I tend to overlook and take for granted. His smile is always genuine, and his delight in you has a way of spreading to others. He’s made our entire office a bit more joyful.
Introspection is hell—Barry isn’t self-absorbed. His thoughts aren’t obsessively self-reflective. He’s outwardly focused, and that allows him to be truly present with people and find intrinsic joy in what he’s doing at the moment.
People matter, things don’t—If you told Barry you made $500,000 last year, he’d smile and congratulate you (if he thought it was important to you). There wouldn’t be a trace of envy, though. His contentment and the simplicity of his life offer a beautiful and prophetic critique for those who know him. Marketing doesn’t reach him. He doesn’t obsess over things. He wouldn’t say it, but his life says it to me all the time: “Contentment and simplicity suffocate anxiety.”
Kindness affects more than severity—Barry has a gentle spirit and isn’t easily angered. He’s slow to anger, slow to speak, and quick to listen, and there’s no shortage of people who seek out his company. In the categories of life-giving and life-stealing, he’s firmly in the category of life-giving at all times.
Vulnerability isn’t so bad—Barry doesn’t know much about pretense and duplicity. He doesn’t overcomplicate things in that way. He’s always open and honest about his feelings. Seems to work for him.
We could stand to have a lot more Barrys in the world!
Are there any lessons you’ve learned from someone with Down Syndrome or another condition?